Prepare and practice giving a presentation to a policymaker on a topic of interest
Policymakers serve their constituents, but not all constituents have their voices heard. Additionally, policymakers do not have time to keep up-to-date on the latest research in every field. This is where advocates and lobbyists step in.
Advocates work for non-profit groups, special interest groups, companies or industries and give voice to those they represent at the state or federal levels. Advocates study the latest research and meet with important stakeholders to determine policy needs and priorities. Advocates can express support/opposition for legislation to the legislators in person or in a letter, on social media, or in press-releases and other news outlets. They can also suggest legislation to policy makers and even be co-authors on legislation.
- Find a topic of interest or bill that relates to your research
- Thoroughly research the subject by doing interviews and consulting the literature.
- Research your representative and/or local policymaker.
- After researching, advocates often publish position statements and fact sheets about a bill. For more on this, complete the Creating a Fact Sheet job simulation.
- Present during a legislative visit. Take the fact sheet and supporting information to express support or opposition to a bill in person to a legislative member or staff. Policymakers pay particular attention to constituents and organizations that visit them to express their views in person. Policymakers will use this information in deciding how a bill will affect the people and thus, how they should vote on it.
For this job sim, you are an engaged scholar, graduate student, or policy fellow. Select an issue for which you would like to advocate. It can be related to your research, your institution, your local community, or any issue that you are passionate about.
Task 1: Find and research a bill.
Locate your state’s website for current legislation. Determine when your state government proposes and votes on legislation, so you can plan your visit before a bill is voted on. Find a bill that sparks your interest or is related to your research/work. If you work for an organization that has a stance on a bill, you can have more strength in your visit by representing an organization than you would just as an individual.
Search the internet, scholarly publications, and opinions of people in the field for background on this bill—who supports it and why, who’s against it and why, and the historical context. If the bill has been through any committee hearings yet, there should be a bill analysis available, and you can usually see this info and any organizations that have registered support or opposition to the bill.
During your research, develop your own notes on why you are for/against the passing of the bill, or any changes you feel are important. Also, if you can locate any fact sheets or letters from organizations on the bill, collect these for your visit too.
Task 2: Research your representative and/or local policymaker.
Find your representative at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members. Research how you think the representative may stand on the issue, including how they have voted on similar/related bills in the past. Consider how you may discuss any anticipated opposition.
Task 3 (advanced): Present your position.
Contact the policymaker’s staff for an appointment or to determine a good time to drop in, either at the capitol or a local office. Dress up, prepare your discussion points, and take a big deep breath! Go visit the representative that is hired to listen to you!
In the meeting, ask if they have read the bill and if they have decided how they will vote on the bill and why. Explain that you are there to express support/opposition for the bill and why. Leave them with any fact sheets you developed/found that relate to the bill. You are technically only “lobbying” once you have asked them to act a certain way in regard to the bill (support/oppose, etc.).
At the end of the meeting, remember to thank them for their time and attention. Remember to send them any follow-up documents if they were discussed. Feel free to follow up later about their position on the bill.
The deliverable can be the formation of a working relationship between you and the legislative member and/or their staff. This is a very important part of advocacy work. You may not have a physical product for this activity.
- The Borgen Project says lobbying is as easy as 1, 2, 3. This site also provides a nice video that takes you inside a typical lobby meeting.
- Community Toolbox has a checklist for before, during, and after the visit, as well as other resources.
- How to Lobby for a Cause (pdf) is a simple outline for your lobby visit, put together by Medical Women’s International Association.
- Advocacy Toolkit for Individuals and Organizations from the Americans for the Arts.
- Libby, P. (2011). The lobbying strategy handbook: 10 steps to advancing any cause effectively. SAGE Publications, Inc. With a clear 10-step framework, this book walks readers step-by-step through the elements of a lobbying campaign. They use three case studies to show success stories of lobbying in action.
- Avner, M., & Smucker, B. (2002). The lobbying and advocacy handbook for nonprofit organizations: Shaping public policy at the state and local level. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. This book provides a simple step-by-step guide for implementing a successful advocacy program at both the state and local levels.
Skills Used to Perform This Task
- Research and synthesis – ability to condense large volumes of information to the important and most relevant pieces.
- Listening, and clear, calm communication – active listening, empathy, social perceptiveness, public speaking.
- Complex problem-solving – attention to long-term goals of advocacy, of legislator, and on-the-spot reasoning.
- Basic knowledge of legislative process.
Skills Used in Policy and Advocacy
- Research – pulling quality, relevant information from scholarly literature, the web, interviews, position statements, etc.
- Communication skills – clear and effective verbal, oral, and written communication
- Writing – especially in short format
- Problem solving, deductive reasoning, reflection
- Leadership and teamwork – working well with people of different backgrounds and with different skills and abilities towards a common goal or despite disagreement
Additional Tasks in Policy and Advocacy Careers
- Composing fact sheets
- Synthesizing complex information
- Power mapping
- Developing a science policy and advocacy course
- Organizing coalitions
Simulation author – Madison Jablonski-Sheffield, MPH Class of 2018 at UC Davis
Job simulation developed with input from Sacramento health advocacy organizations